Category Archives: Features

Abacus Belsize Primary School Online Auction

We have been asked on behalf of Abacus Belsize Primary School to let you know about their annual online auction. Local businesses big and small, as well as members of the Abacus community have very kindly donated goods, services and unique experiences for anyone to bid on. Any funds raised  in the online auction will go towards the Shakespeare drama project at school in spring 2021, which all year groups take part in.

The auction will run between 23 November and 6 December: www.pta-events.co.uk/abacusbelsize

Looking at Camden’s tree register

We know we live in a leafy part of the city, with Primrose Hill and the Heath attracting countless Londoners to relax attracted by these green spaces. However, a recent research project has placed Camden in the top 20 places in England and Wales with the most tree cover. Gardens, tree-lined streets as well as the parks, place our Borough ahead of rural areas, which the study finds have the least tree coverage, including parts of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.

The mapping experts – the credit for study goes to ESRI and Bluesky – use aerial images to detect trees, finding around 400 million in England and Wales. They report that almost a third of Camden is covered in trees, with the northern portion of Hampstead Heath being the most verdant and the Kings Cross areas and the Borough south of Euston Road being least. Belsize is a sea of green with the roads being discernible.

Looking at trees from above provides a valuable story about the nation’s greenery but for many of us the pleasure is through walking around our area and seeing trees in their setting or enjoying relaxing in the open spaces. The Council has released data about our trees, very much at ground level. Its list of Council-managed trees, mapped at the site https://www.camden.gov.uk/trees, corroborates the results of the study, listing over twenty thousand trees in the Borough. This total excludes those on the Health and in the Royal Parks.

In Belsize ward, there are 686 trees listed, of which 375 are mature, 157 are middle-aged and 142 are juveniles. In the Fitzjohn’s and Frognal ward, there are 1,320 trees, of which 564 are mature, 492 middle-aged and 223 juvenile. The lists locate each tree both in terms of the street or park and the exact geolocation. The height and spread of the trees is noted.

Also, the list highlights the importance of environmental impacts, recording the carbon stored in each tree and the amount of carbon and pollution captured each year. A copper beech tree in St John’s cemetery (which you may see on the walk described in this Newsletter) stores the most carbon (6 tonnes) across the two wards of Fitzjohn’s and Frognal and Belsize; the London planes on Belsize Avenue are storing slightly less but head the list for that ward. The plane trees lining Eton Avenue, Fitzjohn’s Avenue as well as Belsize Avenue are important in removing pollution with the data indicating each tree – and there are over a hundred in the area – removes around a kilogram of pollution each year.

In our Newsletter article in May, we highlighted some of the notable trees of the area. These are documented in Camden’s list, allowing you to locate both the mature examples recommended in the Newsletter and to see the newer plantings. Further, that article indicated some website applications available to guide you around Belsize and see some of our best trees (you can put your postcode into the treetalk.co.uk website which will design a walk for you).

Trees in Primrose Gardens

Originally, Stanley Gardens was named after a Dean of Westminster of that name, the Deans being landowners here. At one time, it was used by Hampstead Cricket Club. The houses of Stanley Gardens were built in the 1880s.

The garden was acquired by Hampstead Borough Council in 1920, the name changing to Primrose Gardens in 1939. The garden consists of two railed enclosures with grass and trees with a small central paved seating area between. All the trees in the garden are documented in the council’s list. A pair of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’) are central to the garden, their leaves colouring well through the winter. Three birch trees (Betula pubescens) are also in the garden, in their yellow autumn colour.

Mapping Primrose Gardens’ trees

Facts from the tree register

  • The tallest tree in Belsize is in the Adelaide Road Nature Reserve, a small leaved lime tree (Tilia cordata) rising to 45m, lat-long (51.543707, -0.160565)
  • A London plane tree (Platanus x hispanica) in Belsize Avenue has the largest diameter at 1.33m, lat-long (51.549665, -0.169023)
  • But a London plane tree in Eton Avenue captures the most pollution each year, removing 1,300 grams, lat-long (51.543865, -0.17458)
  • The trees in Belsize ward are diverse: there are 61 varieties amongst the 375 mature trees
  • The newest plantings – juveniles – have maintained that diversity with 60 varieties in 142 trees in Belsize ward.

Walking in Lockdown

Belsize Square to St John-at-Hampstead circular walk

Route: Start in Belsize Square; walk via Belsize Crescent onto Fitzjohn’s Avenue and then to Church Row. Visit the Churchyard of St John-at-Hampstead and the Additional Burial Ground. Walk down Frognal back into Belsize Park. Keep a lookout for the following features.

Trees in Belsize Square

Autumn in Belsize gives us the opportunity to look at the changing trees. In Belsize Square, there are two juvenile Malus Rudolph trees (Crab Apples) which currently display yellowing leaves and red fruit which are easily seen from the pavement. You may have spotted their beautiful pink flowers in spring. They are deciduous and part of the Rosaceae family. You will also see juvenile Sweet Gum trees (Liquidambar Styraciflua; family: Hamamelidaceae) with stunning maple-like leaves in different shades of red. They too are deciduous.

A walk up the hill

Now walk through the Village (noting the Ginkgo tree). Stretch your legs by walking uphill via Belsize Crescent and Akenside Road onto Fitzjohn’s Avenue and to Church Row Hampstead. Go into the Churchyard.

Malus Rudolph

 

Liquidambar Styraciflua

St John-at-Hampstead Churchyard

Follow the path around the Church to the memorial to John “Longitude” Harrison (1693-1776). The fascinating text on the memorial says that, as a young man, Harrison learned to clean and repair clocks and made a few clocks from wood. He went on to become the inventor of the Gridiron Pendulum and discovered a method for preventing the effect of temperature on clocks by using two bars of different metals fixed together. He introduced the secondary spring to keep clocks going while winding up. In 1735, his “first Time keeper” was sent to Lisbon. In 1764 his “much Improved fourth Time keeper” having been sent to Barbados, the Commissioners of Longitude “certified that it had determined the Longitude within one Third of Half a Degree of a great Circle, having erred not more than 40 Seconds in Time”. In March 2006, HRH Philip, Duke of Edinburgh unveiled a memorial stone for Harrison in Westminster Abbey. This is located near the graves of George Graham and Thomas Tompion, famous clockmakers, in the centre part of the nave.

You can also take the opportunity to see the gravestone of artist John Constable and his family, which is lower down the Churchyard.

Additional Burial Ground

Cross over to the Additional Burial Ground and walk uphill to the back corner. Here you will see a memorial to local artist Randolph Schwabe (1885-1948) who was Slade Professor of Fine Art at University College London from 1930. When the lockdown ends, you can learn more about Schwabe by visiting Burgh House whose exhibition “A Nest of Gentle Artists. Randolph Schwabe and his Hampstead Contemporaries” will run until 7 March 2021. See the back page of this Newsletter for details.

The memorial to Schwabe, which covers his ashes, is a statue of an angel by the sculptor Alan Durst (1883-1970). A member of the London Group of Artists, Durst contributed work to (among other places) cathedrals around the United Kingdom.

A wooden columbarium

Near the statue is the grade 2 listed columbarium, which was built of wood in 1940 to cater for the new demand for memorial tablets. There are very many tablets attached to the wood, of different styles and from different decades. You can read about the columbarium on the nearby metal plaque.

Walking down Frognal

Walk back to Belsize Park by dropping downhill on Frognal. Among the plaques to famous residents is one erected in memory of illustrator Kate Greenaway at 39 Frognal. The artist died here in 1901. The house was designed for her by architect Norman Shaw. English Heritage describes the house as an asymmetrical, tile-hung, gabled design reflecting the popular Arts and Crafts movement of the time.  English Heritage’s website also tells the following story: “While living and working there, Greenaway was often visited by the artist John Ruskin, whom she had become close friends with. They had been introduced in 1880 and Ruskin had swiftly adopted Greenaway as one of his circle of female art protégées. Their correspondence continued for some 20 years, though much of it was left up to Greenaway. Ruskin even refused to write the address ‘Frognal’, remarking – ‘It might as well be Dognal-Hognal-Lognal – I won’t’ – and Greenaway was forced to keep him supplied with envelopes she addressed to herself for their correspondence” (see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/kate-greenaway/).

A Prime Minister and the founder of psychoanalysis

From Frognal, cut back to the centre of Belsize Park via Maresfield Gardens, looking out for the plaque where Herbert Asquith lived at No 27 and plaques commemorating Sigmund and his daughter Anna at the Freuds’ home at No 20. The Freud Museum which now occupies the house is currently closed due to the lockdown, but you can keep an eye on www.freud.org.uk/visit/ to find out about future opening plans. The statue of Sigmund Freud at the end of Belsize Lane is a further reminder of the refugees who settled in the area after fleeing Nazi Germany, and of the long association of Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage with psychoanalysis. Walk back into the Village and then to St Peter’s Church in Belsize Square to complete the circle.

A Celebration of Robert Stephenson

Peter Darley of the Camden Railway Heritage Trail introduces us to local industrial heritage.

There had never been a project approaching the size and complexity of the London & Birmingham Railway (L&BR), the first railway authorised to extend into London as far as the New Road (now the Euston Road) for passenger services. Yet Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) was appointed engineer-in-chief for the whole line in September 1833, when not yet thirty.
Continue reading

In Memoriam: Consuelo Phelan

It is with considerable sadness that the Belsize Society has learnt of the death of Consuelo Phelan. Many members will remember her as a very longstanding committee member who especially loved and cared for the trees and plants of Belsize. She kept a very close eye on all planning applications related to trees, and it is certainly thanks to her efforts that some of our beautiful trees were spared the axe. Members also often saw her at the gates of the garden party or the AGM; she only stood down from the committee at the most recent AGM last March after many years of service. Continue reading

New Book about Belsize: The Harlots of Haverstock Hill 

The drama series “Harlots” features Georgian London’s most valuable commercial activity – sex. Series one and two will be aired back to back on BBC Two from August. Significantly, Belsize had its own Harlots in the 18th century, and this fascinating story is told in the new book by David S Percy, The Harlots of Haverstock Hill.

The Harlots of Haverstock Hill is an account of the remarkable life of “Moll” King, an 18th century madam or brothel-keeper, an ambitious and opportunistic woman who rose from humble beginnings in the streets of London to become one of the first settlers in  Belsize Park. Moll became a wealthy landowner with several properties on Haverstock Hill in the days when there were no more than a handful of houses along this country road to Hampstead. Her legacy remains there to this day.

Bold and opportunistic, Moll King was a woman who mixed with harlots, courtesans and lords of the land, who was painted by Hogarth and defied the norms and restrictions of the day to pursue wealth and success on her own terms. This account of her life, written in part in the first person as she might have recorded it, includes new information and facts which have never before come to light regarding what happened to Moll King’s Belsize houses – especially her villa.

“Moll” King and her Belsize Houses by David S Percy, with a foreword by Dan Cruickshank, will be out on 1 September and available in all Daunt bookshops plus Waterstones, Hampstead, £10.99.

Belsize Air Quality – Questions and Answers

The survey was funded by the Community Infrastructure Levy and Belsize Society was supported by Camden Council’s Air Quality Officers, to whom we owe our thanks. The coronavirus lockdown meant we could not hold the planned public meeting with Camden’s officers to discuss the survey results so instead Tom Parkes, Senior Air Quality Officer, kindly responded to questions submitted by the volunteers: Continue reading

Belsize Park air quality survey – the results are in

Teresa Poole, BelSoc Committee Member who oversaw the pollution monitoring project, writes:

Results from the community air quality monitoring study in Belsize Park / Swiss Cottage show three of our 10 locations breached the annual legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and several other sites experienced high levels during winter months.

(The survey was funded by the Community Infrastructure Levy and Belsize Society was supported by Camden Council’s Air Quality Officers, to whom we owe our thanks. The coronavirus lockdown meant we could not hold the planned public meeting with Camden’s officers to discuss the survey results so instead Tom Parkes, Senior Air Quality Officer, kindly responded to questions submitted by the volunteers and you can find responses here. ) Continue reading

Belsize Society Newsletter: May 2020

Welcome to the Newsletter of the Belsize Society. (The whole pdf of the May Newsletter is here, but you can link to individual articles below.)

This issue of the Newsletter covers some of the activities in the Belsize area, responding to Covid 19. The Hampstead and Kilburn Community Relief Team started in March and has quickly grown to over 300 local residents/volunteers supporting their neighbours and communities. This Newsletter also give details of how to support the Chalk Farm Foodbank, which is currently requesting donations of food and supplies, and the Royal Free Charity. The Charity has been providing vital wellbeing support to front-line workers at The Royal Free Hospital, Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital. Continue reading

Essay: The Broader Perspective

We asked writer and philosopher Alain de Botton for something to inspire us in these difficult and unusual times.

At some point in the 1650s, the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal jotted down one of the most counterintuitive aphorisms of all time: ‘The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he cannot stay quietly in his room.’

Really? Surely having to stay quietly in one’s room must be the beginning of a particularly evolved kind of psychological torture? What could be more opposed to the human spirit than to have to inhabit four walls when, potentially, there would be a whole planet to explore?

And yet Pascal’s idea usefully challenges one of our most cherished beliefs: that we must always go to new places in order to feel and discover new and worthwhile things. What if, in fact, there were already a treasury inside us? What if we had within our own brains already accumulated a sufficient number of awe-inspiring, calming and interesting experiences to last us ten lifetimes? What if our real problem was not so much that we are not allowed to go anywhere – but that we don’t how to make the most of what is already to hand? Continue reading